BWW Review: A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS SPRINKLES US WITH HOLIDAY CHEER IN A LYTHGOE FAMILY PANTO at Pasadena Civic Auditorium
If you are a Scrooge, Grinch, a Disgruntled Elf, a Melting Snowman or a Reindeer with Bone Spurs, or you just don't enjoy the holiday hubbub, you will be surprised at how much fun you'll have as Neil Patrick Harris, communicating through the Queen's Magic Mirror, guides and cautions us through this beloved fable, and Snow White, played by the beautiful and talented Olivia Sanabia, befitting of every accolade, and including The Wicked Queen, Muddles The Court Jester, Prince Harry, Herman The Huntsman and the Seven Dwarves highly entertain us with merriment, singing and dancing, lots of corny jokes and full-on audience participation.
Truly a Lithgoe Family Production, this popular form of British pantomime is written and produced by Kris Lythgoe, directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, and produced by Becky Lithgoe. Their quantity of credits would fill the rest of this review, but "So You Think You Can Dance" and "American Idol" are just a spattering of their full list of successful productions.
We go through quite an adventure with the characters. There is wonderful, wonderful singing, lively, fun choreography in an array of styles, and silliness galore; some might say tomfoolery, but that's a different fable.
The audience is given instructions as they enter the theatre, to interact with the characters on stage by yelling out warnings, giving them hints, remembering their names ~ booing and applauding the appropriate characters ~ we even got to rehearse! And to sing along with the lyrics whenever you felt like it or were prompted to.
Watching the children in the audience be enthralled from beginning to end, was as much fun as laughing and smiling about the antics on stage. Jared Gertner (Broadway's "Book of Mormon") plays "Muddles," the "court jester," the emcee, weaving the story for us, with boundless energy singing, dancing and keeping us laughing constantly, as he is on stage almost the entire show. He is particularly wonderful toward the end of the show, interviewing a long line of children individually, up on stage from the audience, getting to know each of them and deftly keeping it fun and lighthearted. His comedic timing was exemplary, carrying the show through smoothly without a hitch.
The Wicked Queen was played savorly by Michelle Williams, of Destiny Child fame. She looks like a diva, sings like a diva and gives it her all, 100%, rocking songs like "I Put A Spell On You," "Truth Hurts" and "Bootylicious." With the help of Neil Patrick Harris's expressive and tongue-in-cheek cameo appearances in the huge Magic Mirror on the wall of the Queen's castle, the Queen is able to find out anything that goes on in her Kingdom or that will come to pass. Her infamous vainness and most quoted saying, "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Who's The Fairest of them All?" gives her away, only to find out at the end of the story that she and her husband were cursed, and are really Snow White's sweet aunt and uncle, after the real Queen and King, who, unbeknownst to Snow White, were her real parents, and had been poisoned, leaving Snow White to grow up unknowingly as a handmaiden to her magically transformed relatives.
This Kingdom rigamarole is quite complicated, but the tale is well-known. All the dialogue is specifically written for children of ALL ages, and the songs are popular ones that all the kids know and sing along to. Including Christmas Carol sing-alongs at the very end of the show.
Prince Harry, played by Michael Campion is the quintessential handsome hero guy that everyone assumes will be the triumphant one, but there's a twist in this modernized plot. He is everything you could want in a princely image and played his part with gusto, but the dark horse, Herman the Huntsman, played endearingly by Garret Clayton, ends up wedding the heretofore unknown real princess. In all the confusion, and it is very easy to get confused, Muddles and Magic Mirror help us keep the story straight.
There are references throughout the show to Pasadena, locations nearby, dis'es about Beverly Hills, dropping names like Alexa, TMZ coverage, and Wi-Fi, etc., personalizing the story to the specific audience. Throughout the show as well, there were images flashed all over the walls and ceiling of the theatre, encompassing everyone further into the make-believe world.
The exciting choreography, assembled by married duo Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo, or "Nappytabs," is a well-established Choreographic team, known for their Award-winning choreography on "So You Think You Can Dance," et al, and have had their pointed (or flexed) feet involved in countless productions, including Jennifer Lopez's "All I Have" residence at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, and the current TLC tour about to happen.
They have an immense vocabulary covering many styles they have mastered, and it makes for a well-rounded visual fantasy, exciting and always new and refreshing. The dancers worked hard, (don't they always?) very clean and together, with bursting enthusiasm, giving a bubbling-over type of feeling to the whole Production.
The Seven Dwarves were delightful and entertaining, fleshing out the story and each of their characters as Snow White's guardians and new friends, each with their own personality and way of showing Snow White affection. Their YMCA take is pure fun, reminiscing about the days of disco, dwarf-style. What a fun number!
At one point, Bruno, from "Dancin' With The Stars," appeared on screen (Oops, I mean in the Magic Mirror) to judge some of the crazy moves; managing to do his own as well; and Nigel Lithgoe also made a cameo appearance.
All Production values were on the mark: Festive and creative Costuming, Lighting, Sound, Music and Arrangements, which is always the Lythgoe label.
As the entire cast danced past their bows, it began to snow over the audience, and on our way out the doors of the theatre, more snow was falling from the eaves above.
You have the weekend to bring the family and have a delightful Christmas experience. "A Snow White Christmas" plays through this weekend, with two shows Saturday and two shows Sunday, closing Sunday, the 22nd. For tickets, click here: thepasadenacivic.com, or call the box office @ 626-449-7360.
Photos by Curtis Brown